Wildlife crime warrior

G Magazine

We talk with a crime scene investigator for our feathered and furry friends, Dr Rebecca Johnson from the Australian Museum.


Dr Rebecca Johnson from the Australian Museum.

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Forensic investigation brings to mind grisly crime scenes and chalk outlines of humans – not those of our feathered and furry friends. But with Dr Rebecca Johnson’s skill for identifying unknown animal DNA, our animal victims that are smuggled, assaulted, finned or turned into holiday souvenirs will always be avenged.

"Wildlife trafficking is an important issue because… the animals that tend to be targeted are endangered – taking them out of their population further threatens the species and moving them to other countries becomes a bio-security issue. We don’t want exotic pests competing with our wildlife for food or habitat, or eating our agricultural crops.

The most memorable case I’ve worked on… involved a man who was charged with intentionally running over a flock of Sulphur-crested cockatoos. This was a double aspect case; cockatoos are protected and it was animal cruelty. It was great to be able to help the police with something that was a bit unusual for them.

The most bizarre thing I’ve seen illegally traded is… elephant feet umbrella stands. I don’t know why you would want to have something like that in the house. I would much prefer to see an elephant foot still attached to the elephant walking around in its country of origin.”